Mag+ CEO Gregg Hano: The keys to tablet magazine publishing success

April 30, 2012
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As a member of The Association of Magazine Media’s Tablet Metrics Task Force, Hano also helped create a set of guidelines for reporting tablet data, as well as launch the Audit Bureau of Circulations' first consolidated media report last year.
TabTimes: What did you see early on that so intrigued you about the potential for magazines on the iPad?

Gregg Hano: Popular Science actually wrote about the future and potential of tablets prior to the iPad launch, and it was clear to all of us that this was the future. Being one of the first gave us the opportunity to define the direction of content on the platform and establish it as a viable, sustainable business. We realized we could provide valuable and engaging content, and offer our readers something they would be glad to pay for because it would provide an experience they couldn’t’ get with any other medium.

Why was Popular Science the right publication to lead with on the iPad?

We actually had an internal competition with some of the other Bonnier brands to see who could come up with the best tablet publication and the Pop Sci team won. Beyond that, we know our readers, and there was no question they would be among the first iPad adopters. 

What types of magazines seem to be resonating particularly well with readers on the iPad?

In general, technology-based brands tend to perform very well. The medium is also a slam-dunk for highly visual publications like Popular Photography, which dedicates a lot of space to describing how particular images are made. The format makes describing and showing those concepts very easy and helps the reader understand on a deeper level. 

Your approach takes advantage of the capabilities of the device. Are digital replicas a bad idea on the iPad? And is there a danger of too much rich media?

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach, and creating something unique and immersive takes time, resources and vision. In some cases it requires new and different content. Obviously, it is easier to charge a premium for content that takes full advantage of the medium, but some people are happy with the convenience of having a digital replica rather than a print copy, so it just depends on the situation. Either way, you absolutely can overdo it with rich media. It still needs to make sense and enhance the experience. Functionality for functionality’s sake is not good. Just as is the case with good website design, certain standards and protocols are likely to emerge. 

What have you seen over the past two years since the iPad was introduced that encourages you about the tablet as a magazine publishing platform?

Sales and projected sales for the iPad and other tablets are extremely exciting. Newsstand has been a tremendous catalyst. The entire Apple ecosystem (and Kindle Fire ecosystem) is hugely beneficial. It is particularly useful in demonstrating the value of subscriptions vs. single-issue sales. We’re seeing subscription renewal rates that tend to be at least on par with print, if not better. We’re also seeing a great deal of readers opting for print and digital subscriptions. Beyond that, we’re seeing huge numbers of completely new readers and larger numbers of younger readers and higher income readers. 

It seems inevitable that publishers will have to derive the majority of their revenues from advertising, just as they have in print. 

I don’t necessarily agree with that assumption. There is certainly an investment that needs to be made to produce great digital content, but there are also some tremendous savings in printing and distribution. Based on the number of new subscribers, combined print and digital subscribers and a willingness of customers to pay for good content, there is a very real potential for a number of business models to be successful, including some that have yet to be developed, such as a pay-per-article model. 

Why aren't we seeing more innovative advertising on the iPad, even as the magazine content itself becomes more dynamic and interactive? 

First, it is still a relatively new medium and there’s a lot that advertisers and agencies still are figuring out. Second, there are some technical issues that need to be addressed. Right now, the process of creating interactive ads for multiple platforms is a bit challenging. HTML 5 should be a big help in that regard. Third, the industry needs to do a better job about measuring readership and other success metrics in a transparent and uniform way so that advertisers can make more informed decisions about how and where to invest. This is something I have been heavily involved with in the past and will continue to push for in my new role. 

Tablets combine several benefits of different media for advertisers: quantifying behavior and targeting like the Internet, attractive display advertising like a print magazine, rich media like television, and the potential for interactivity, sharing and virally spreading the word as with social media. How and when do you see that all coming together in tablet advertising? 

A lot of changes will happen once agencies can more easily deliver creative content to publishers. Ultimately, the best formula for success will be engagement. Advertisers need to think differently about what and how much content they provide. Depending on the type of magazine, ads are actually considered valuable content by the readers, particularly in enthusiast/special-interest publications. In many cases, there will be opportunities to go much more deeply with content while still not interfering or becoming intrusive. This should be a huge benefit to advertisers and readers. Ford/Lincoln are doing some great tablet-only ads in Pop Sci

How will the guidelines you helped create as a member of The Association of Magazine Media’s Tablet Metrics Task Force help facilitate the growth of paid display advertising in iPad magazine apps?

To be successful, we need consistent metrics and we need to share data. Transparency, consistency and timeliness are key. 

We’re familiar with the economics of advertising in a print magazine, including positioning ads, rate cards, selling a certain demographic, etc. How will these translate into a magazine app for tablets?

There will be some similarities. The more publishers know about their readers, the better they will be able to position themselves. Fortunately, it seems readers are pretty good about sharing their information. At the end of the day brand quality and trust – regardless of the medium – are what will keep CPM high. 

Do you see a point where tablet magazine apps bring in enough revenues to compensate for the decline in print revenues?

That really depends on the publication and what they offer in print and digitally. And, of course, we will soon see a growing number of new publications that exist only in digital form. 

Finally, how would you gauge the revenue potential for iPad magazine apps?

The sky is the limit. Obviously, there is plenty of continued room for growth in the U.S., which is still pretty far ahead of the rest of the world in terms of iPad adoption. Just as important, however, is the potential for brands and titles to go global. We’re already seeing an encouraging number of international buyers and expect this to continue as tablets go to places like Sweden, China and Australia more deeply. 


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